Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pray First, Pay Later

First of all, Happy 2015! I hope that this year brings more of what you're looking for, and less of what you're not, and I hope that you will Knit in Good Health! I also hope that you will find the time to foster relationships and be kind. Kindness doesn't take much time, but kindness changes lives, in as little as 17 minutes...
It was just 17 minutes. A little more than a quarter of an hour. A little less than a third. It was a tiny portion of my day, but God had me there for a reason. I'm so glad I didn't miss it...

I went to Office Max on Friday morning, a not so unusual start to my work day. While I was there, waiting for a 24 x 36, color poster print job to process, I noticed an old man...he was also waiting for a print job. The clerk waiting on us was new-ish to the job (less than 3 months, he had told me a bit earlier), and he seemed to be having a difficult time communicating with the old man, but I kind of just ignored it. I was sitting in a nearby chair, keeping an eye on the poster as it printed, and checking Facebook on my phone.

Then, my poster came off the printer, and the clerk called me back to the desk to pay. The old man was in the way, and he showed no signs of moving, but I wasn't in a big hurry. I did not try to rush him, just stood quietly next to him as he collected himself and some papers into the file folder in front of him. The clerk seemed a little antsy, but he caught my eye, gestured to the credit card reader and mouthed the words, "No hurry. Whenever you're ready." The old man and I were currently his only customers.

I knew that his print job was none of my business, but the old man turned to me and said sheepishly, through an accent I couldn't place (Polish I think), "I'm so sorry. I will get out of your way. It's just that I have to get this done for my funeral at 2 o'clock." He pointed to the folder. "My wife died last week, and there is so much to do today..." At this, I looked more closely at the folder, still open, where I saw a color photo of his wife and the words to How Great Thou Art and another hymn taped in place, along with a shaky, hand-written obituary on the right side of the page. He just kept looking down at the folder.

"I'm sorry," I said, placing a hand on his shoulder. He looked up at me, and his eyes welled with tears. 

"57 years!," he replied, with pride in his voice. "She was 93 years old, and I took care of her. No," he paused, "we took care of each other. We lived through World War II, we traveled to 48 states. I loved her with all that I am, and now I am alone." At this, he motioned with a weathered index finger to a poem on the back of the paper. It was copied from an announcement printed for their 50th wedding anniversary in 2007. The last lines of the poem were, and he read them aloud,
----"The view ahead is one of the best - 
-----Just a little further, and then we can rest.
-----We move more slowly, but together still, 
-----Let me hold your hand, as we go downhill."
-------------------------(Peggy Cameron King)

"Now, I can not hold her hand anymore," he continued in that accent that was definite, but not too thick. "57 years, and I don't think I have cried at all. Today, I can not stop crying." He turned away, and I offered all that I had, which was just a tissue, and my heart was broken for him.

He told me of their son, who needed full-time care due to brain damage sustained in some kind of accident long ago. He told me they had always taken care of this boy, now a man who needs diapers and cannot speak, but they took care of him and loved him together. Their love for each other, and for their son, was obviously epic. Love that was a choice, honored through good times and bad, in sickness and health, for richer and poorer...57 years of epic love blinded me as he talked about his beautiful wife and their beautiful life. Now, he was on his own. For the first time in 57 years, he was alone.

I stood there and talked with him for a few minutes more, mostly listening. I remarked that I thought his choice of hymns was perfect, then I asked if I could pray with him. He agreed, so I did. I placed one of my suddenly young-looking, 46-year-old hands between his weathered palms, and the other on his sagging shoulder. I prayed a portion of the 23rd Psalm, and asked God to give him strength and peace, in Jesus's name. The old man crumpled into my arms, and we wept together. 

He shared a bit more, then thanked me for the gift of my time. Through his own tears, he promised to also pray for me and my family, "...that God's richest blessings would come to you all." I cannot begin to imagine his grief today, but I know that he and his wife love the Lord, and each other. They loved with an epic love, and I am thankful that he shared a portion of his story with me. It is rare to get a glimpse of love that big here, on earth. I gave him one final hug, paid for my poster, and promised that I would be praying for him today and in the weeks to come. I will keep my promise.

I did have some knitting to talk about, but that will have to wait for another day. Today, I want to remind everyone, everywhere, to never underestimate the impact a few minutes can make. A little time, a sympathetic ear, and perhaps a prayer can really do a lot to encourage a fellow human being who may be struggling in shadows we know nothing about. 

PS - the whole time, that new clerk kept catching my eye, and saying, "No hurry. Whenever you're ready." Thanks, Lord, for giving me time to to pray for a stranger this morning. How Great Thou Art, indeed. 


  1. My new computer seemed to eat my comment on your earlier post, but I wasn't sure, and it was bugging me, so I came back to check. Another Small Favor from your day: I got to read this today. Thank you so very much for seeing, for taking the time, for being the kind of person God can put in the right place at the right time and trust you to be His voice of love. Blessings on you and the clerk and that dear man and his son.

  2. Thanks for sharing. It's a beautiful reminder to keep our eyes and hearts open as we walk about our lives. We never know who we might have the opportunity to comfort or lift up or help.

  3. This is so sweet, it made me get all misty. Bless you for taking the time to just be with him for awhile. (I saw The Notebook for the first time this weekend and it's that same kind of love, that lasts a whole lifetime and beyond. Beautiful.)